“The face of the threat has changed,” a French military officer tells Jeune Afrique. “Our preoccupation is no longer to support the regimes.” The comment isn’t followed by a winking emoticon but Jeune Afrique did draw a map (link) of the French army presence in Africa today.* In 1960 France had around 30,000 soldiers on the continent. 50 years later, that number has been reduced to some 5,000. The map reminded me of the ‘Open letter to the future President of France’ Cameroonian author Patrice Nganang published in SlateAfrique last month. Here’s an excerpt:
We know, Mr. future President of France, that the French slave kingdom in Africa is maintained by thousands of French soldiers stationed here and there the continent: Senegal, Chad, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire. We know that if it weren’t for this military support, the tyrants, those commanders that keep the people in bondage, would have long been toppled by the people. (…) We expect more from you than outrage over the tyrannies that strangle Cameroon and other francophone countries. From you, we expect a withdrawal of the all too obvious support that Paris has always given to some African dictators. From you, we expect a military withdrawal from Africa. But, from you, we also expect strong gestures and concrete support to the African civil society undermined by years of dictatorship and corruption. (…) Mr. future President of France, be more than the Mitterand of La Baule, be more than the Obama in Cairo; be a friend of democracy in Africa.
* When you click on the map it expands to show the details, including troop numbers, military operations, etcetera.